Monday, 24 October 2016

It's that time of the year again

No we haven't really been burying bodies in the greenhouse.
Just our sense of humour I guess. Actually Ian had just dug out
some soil from the other bed so that the chickens can build up
some fresh soil. This mound was then shifted to the outer edge
that needed building up.
So much of my blog turns with the seasons. That is what happens when we live and work in the countryside. What we do is dictated by the weather and of course by the more artificial deadlines of academic years that I work to as well. I was due to go away again and there was forecast for snow while I was away. It wasn't likely to be much or long lasting but after a cold, dry spell it could mean a period of wet and muddy weather. It was obviously time to put the caravan into its winter home in the greenhouse, while we still could. To do this we had to put the chickens in first. We also had to finish tidying up the greenhouse by removing the remaining tomato plant skeletons and putting logs down for the arks to sit on. The aim is to raise the beds more and stop the chickens digging their way out in the process.
The arks on the left and the caravan on the right in their
winter quarters in the greenhouse

The swans flew south last week and someone told us that
the snow would come three days later according to the
folklore and sure enough it did - well sort of. Fortunately
nothing lying on the ground yet, but those swans were right
to set off
We had been moving the chickens closer and closer to the greenhouse so that we didn't have to move them too far in the end and that was helpful. We have a bogey as Ian calls it, which is basically a wheeled contraption to put the arks on to help us move them, but it was somewhere at the back of the barn. It was just easier to move the arks by hand instead. As we are low in hay this year we decided to use leaves as bedding for the chickens and it freaked them out at first - well the older ones anyway, as it was a lot noisier than having hay on the floor. The younger ones though were thoroughly enjoying scratching through the leaves. Eventually they all discovered the dry soil underneath the leaves and were in heaven as they had their dust baths. If you have never seen a chicken having a dust bath, it is always good to be warned about it before you watch - they look more like they are having a fit as they cover themselves in the soil. It is hard to believe that they are actually in some sort of delirious state as they kick the soil about.
Chanel looks like she is having a really good chat

The girls blending in well with the autumnal colours
As I mentioned we got a good proportion of our apples picked and stored in our cellar, however, I forgot to mention we had some help in doing that from someone with a few spare hours. This was much appreciated, especially as they were much taller than either me or Ian and could therefore reach higher without a step ladder. I managed to get a pot load of apples boiled down for the freezer the following day and in jars, along with some reduced grape juice. I am going to have to work on some recipes over the winter to use our hemp and amaranth seed along with all this fruit we have this year. Maybe some sort of seed bar I guess.
Hercules with his happy face on

More preparation for the coming wet weather, a fresh layer
of chippings on the road way. This time there is also some
clay drains from the pond that were dug up earlier on this
year when it had dried up a lot. Now being put to better use
where we really could do with it drying up
I also managed to finally get an outline done for a third paper I am writing. Of course it took me a lot less time than I imagined it would once I got around to it. The problem I had was trying to get straight in my head what I actually wanted to say in some coherent form. It is far from finished of course but at least it is a start for my supervisor and I to work on to get it towards a publishable state. We have some very strict deadlines on this and the end of this month is the first one for the deadline.

All puffed up against the cold. They haven't left
us yet. They may head into the village though later
I have also got a trip to Sweden organised for the end of the year. It has been a long time in the planning stage and one of the biggest issues has been the financing of it. It still has to be agreed by the grant awarding body, but at least that is now functioning again after a year when there was no funding. I haven't had a problem before and so I hope there won't be one this time as there is little time to rearrange it if necessary. It will be a good opportunity to talk about the type of work I am doing to a different group of people and maybe work towards some sort of collaborative project in the meantime. That is what I definitely need to keep on doing research, otherwise I need to start looking towards some other way of deriving an income.

A workshop I organised on networks. We had good fun
throwing balls of wool at each other to show our connections
As I mentioned I have been away over the weekend at another conference. This was rather different to the academic conferences I have been too. There was academic input, which is why I went, but there was also a large input from people living in eco-communities. These are often called intentional communities and are effectively communities who live together with the specific intent of living more carefully in balance with nature. It was a bit weird to hear the kind of language used that I used to hear from evangelical Christian circles, especially in the preach, errrr I mean lecture I heard this Sunday morning. The young guy was relating the values of McDonalds and what could be learnt from them in terms of outreach and people centred approaches to customer service. I felt I had heard this before in some form or other in church sermons.
A nice cup of tea in Vilnius Old Town

Outside the cafe looking down the street. I was
surprised with Vilnius, it is a bit like Riga or
Tartu meets Italy and maybe the Catholic
influence. It is not as tidy as Riga and seems a
little more chaotic, but that was only a brief
impression. It felt like there was a lot to
discover though with some interesting looking
I found there was such a diversity of people and many with quite strong opinions. I wonder how this will work in the future. If there is consideration for the opinions of others then it may be fine and although the opinions were intense there did seem to be a commitment to listen to others  with respect over the weekend. If that lasts then the evangelicals would do well to learn from them I think. Some groups were quite traditional in their approach to the role of men and women in society, some were very free in their interpretation of those roles. Some were very spiritual communities and some less so. Some were based on more Catholic spirituality, some even based on a book I had heard about that encouraged people to live closer to a Garden of Eden style of life (at least the author's view of that) and some were based on a more Eastern spirituality. So there was a very diverse range of opinions on how to live the simple life that to outsiders would just generally view as some very hippy lifestyles.

Not quite sure what this random egg on a pedastal was for
There was a bit of a mix up in the end in the conference organisation but it did lead to an interesting evening. During the conference some of us stayed at the site of a potential eco-community. There was a kindergarten and school but the community did not live on-site as in other communities. One older, devout lady was the inspiration for the community and adored the fact that she could look out of her window and see the children enjoying the natural environment as they learnt and played together. Some people on the conference stayed in the kindergarten house and I and a few others stayed in the old lady's farmhouse. On the last afternoon there was a trip back to Vilnius where most of the conference itself had been held, but we found out that they were not returning back to the place where we were staying. I had only just arranged that somehow I would be given a lift back to Vilnius in the morning in time to get my bus and the same with a young lass from Georgia. Although we had been told we could stay over, they hadn't explained that we would not be able to go on the trip, which in some ways was why we stayed over.

Ooooerrr! What's that white stuff falling from the sky?
The young lass was a bit upset at missing out and we had contemplated joining the group and then staying over in Vilnius instead, but it was too late to make a decision without first finding out if that was possible or would not upset our host. In the end I and the Georgian lass were on our own. There had been a meeting of local eco-communities in Lithuania and they had finished with lunch at the kindergarten house and so they accepted us in their midst and then left us with enough food to eat for the evening. It gave the two of us a good opportunity to just talk about life and our different viewpoints on it. We also got to hear a little about life in Lithuania from our host, who had been an economics professor at the university at one stage. I got confused as to how many children she really had, but it was evident that many considered her their mother, which was a testament to her caring nature. She came to me in the morning with a cup of tea and a piece of cake for breakfast and sent me away with an apple and oranges to eat on the journey. The young lass left in the early hours as her plane was at 7pm.

A photo from a previous trip to Riga
So here I am on a wet Monday writing this blog while heading back to Riga by bus for a meeting with someone who I have only Skyped with before. Then I shall be heading home on the evening bus back to our land and our caravan in the greenhouse.

A side view of the Freedom monument in Riga
By way of a P.S. The meeting went really well and we both went away really inspired and with some questions we felt needed answering that would help both of us in our research. Always good to clarify the questions that need answers.


  1. remind me again about what you are working on and how do you communicate.Barbarax

    1. The official topic of my work is Mainstreaming Participatory Development in Rural Latvia and Estonia. Basically it is looking at ways of putting people in the heart of planning for development in their area where they live or work or both. If you want to communicate with me just click on the envelope sign on the page and it will automatically generate an email with my email address on it.

  2. Always lovely to read your posts and catch up with your news.

    1. Awww thank you Gina. I love reading your blog too, even if those cakes sound rather too tempting :)

  3. there is something very amusing about your chickens trying to dig their way out of the greenhouse...
    So you are off to Sweden? It's nearly two years since I was there...I must be due another trip soon too.

    1. Hard to believe they would try, but they do. Not that any have succeeded this year

      The plan is to go to Sweden but I need a letter and it has to be sent in by the 1st November. A tad frustrating

  4. Your description of a chicken taking a dust bath made me smile. I'd never thought about it before but you're right. Sometimes they behave as if they're having some kind of seizure. Hoping the coming winter is kind to you...

    1. They are funny for sure! I hope the winter is kind to us too but so far it's not looking good with snow showers forecast for the week ahead.


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